Fear of Fours

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While their debut was practically a revolution in the development of a satisfactory fusion of singer/songwriter vocals and drum'n'bass, Lamb's second album sets the bar much higher. As on the band's debut, Andy Barlow proves he's one of the most capable and inventive producers in the electronic community. He also still sounds inspired by the fiery side of bop as well as more muted chamber music, from the dexterous synthetic bass and intricate drum programs on "Little Things" to the restrained beats and orchestral tug of "All in Your Hands" and "Bonfire." Similar to the rather deflated return of Portishead in 1997, though, Fear of Fours suffers from Louise Rhodes' tendencies to play up her voice as a torch diva, overemoting and often coming off as girlish or whiny on many tracks. Thank goodness, then, for lengthy instrumentals like "Ear Parcel," which begins with the pastoral sounds of twinkling bells and croaking frogs but later whips up a few frenzied breakbeats as a bed for a sampled trumpet solo.

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